has struck me many times when reading the novels of Edward
Whittemore, that the prose is immensely quotable. In my
last re-reading of the novels, I noted a number of excerpts
from the novels as ideal for quotes. Below are those I
have noted for each book. Please contact me if you have
your own favourite quote from one of the novels, and I
will include it here.
manuscripts were illustrated with ink drawings
exquisitely detailed to show every hair. Even the
cat hairs could be counted, where cats appeared.
Right this way for the illusive dream often sought and
seldom found, or to be exact, often found but seldom
The fat man muttered and swore, laughed, lied when there
seemed no reason to lie, then corrected himself before
wandering off on some byway of his four decades of travel
There seemed only one thing to do, so I did it. I became
Of course we do what we have to do. That's what she
taught us, after all, by performing the tea ceremony,
turning the bowls at sunset. We do what we have to do.
An immobile naked giant who heard everything and saw
everything, from whom there was nothing to fear.
A kind and lonely man. As kind and lonely as a clown.
Here echoes could have no end, for the great empty area
was no less than a cavern of the mind.
He swept his arms through history gathering up
emperors and peasants, barbarians, poets.
When there is Tao in the empire, the galloping steeds
are turned back to fertilise the ground by their droppings.
War, disaster, turmoil. Despite it all Mama had followed
To know its sawdust
Its smells and rings and highbars
Is to remember.
The supreme present
Nothing compares to the present
Unless it's the past.
Alone and delirious in the desert of his Mongol ancestors,
in the solitude of wind and snow, he raised his hand
to wave farewell.
But lives cross, the sun and the moon contradict each
we are enmeshed in a network of doing and feeling. Others
become part of us and the pasts of others are beyond
In the darkness of a minute or an hour or all the years
of his life, Quin listened to the echoes of Geraty's
Facts and figures. Are they enough, or is it possible
that Shanghai was more than this? Not just a city but
an actual part of mind?
A vision we all carry somewhere within us?
Life is brief and
we must listen to every sound
No they will not believe you but you must tell them
the truth all the same. You must say that once a man
dreamed a wind would come, he dreamed it and willed
it, and because he did the wind came.
Now we see him stepping into the ring, the master of
ceremonies dressed in boots and frock coat, carrying
megaphone, a shaman and arbiter of miracles.
Come the acts of memory
A Shanghai circus
The manor was
an immense mausoleum containing no less than five
hundred thousand separate objects acquired by his
family in the course of six hundred and fifty years
of doing nothing
What the family
malady amounted to, in short, was an unshakable conviction
that the entire universe was ordered with the sole
purpose of endangering Skanderbeg Wallensteins.
prophecy and moronic fancy collaborating to produce
original Holy Scripture fully seven hundred years
the first appearance of the Old Testament.
source of inspired religion, these whimsies
concocted by two rambling anonymous tramps in 930BC?
of birds just passed us, going from where to where
in the desert? I don't know, but when they alight
I'll have arrived at my holy place.
you done today for God?
Today in His Name I have rewritten the universe.
of the Koran shape and unshape themselves
as do the waves in the desert and yes the oasis may
But yes, we will find it.
a dream and a place to dream.
and fountains and waterways, a place where
myrrh grew three thousand years ago and forever.
him Bernini. The dreams were crumbling, but not
quite gone. I suppose I hoped someday he would also
own beautiful fountains and stairway to somewhere.
now, only the empty day, but at least he had
survived the harsh coming of the light.
then, a photograph now, a cloak threadbare
and resplendent from century to century.
failures given to time, demons pressed into disquietude,
spirits released to memory in the chaotic book of
a repetitious and contradictory Bible suggesting infinity,
a Sinai Tapestry of many colors.
and unreal? Imitation and unreal?
What gibberish is this? What madness?
the Great and Christ, a blind man and an imbecile,
the czar and Wallenstein all steadfastly sharing their
profane and sacred concerns over the centuries.
heard of a mysterious book in which all things are
written? A book that is circular and unchronicled
calmly contradictory, suggesting infinity?
it possible that all prophecies were really
histories misplaced by time? Memories in disguise?
end nothing could be said of his work except that
it was preposterous and true and totally unacceptable.
God passed His time in some other way, but how?
to become fables and fables tend to become men.
Here I am only
twenty-one years old and I'm already
a veteran of a war that was fought nearly seventy
Trading in futures. Religious symbols.
With that kind of backing the three men seemed unbeatable.
A fateful stone
from antiquity discovered in a temple
beside the Nile. Fate breathing variety into life.
Altogether a roomy
seven-story apartment, inverted and
impressively solid, in the top of Cheops pyramid.
Our subject isn't
Strongbow's study, but Strongbow himself, Strongbow
in Constantinople thirty-three years ago. What sinister
game was he playing out there then? Just who does
he think he is going around and snatching up the Ottoman
No reason to hold
back just because there are only three
hours between noon and midnight on a rainy day in
That happens all the time in bad weather. But spring
will be coming soon and then we can make up for it.
We're holy men
now, you and I, and our concerns are
spiritual ones. But even a single night with the princess
is worth a century of incoherency.
And even when
hard factual evidence was available, it seemed to
drift away almost at once and lose itself in the twisting
of Jerusalem with the ease of a Haj Harun, that unreal
phantom figure who somehow embodied the spirit
of the mountaintop, everybody's mythical Holy City.
The god of dawn?
The god of light?
Strange presences, it seemed, on the shores of
the Sinai where he and Maud had once known love.
in gloom and smoke with a pistol in his belt.
Christ in the fires of Smyrna.
in Jerusalem, or in an encampment near it,
a child would grow up not knowing he or she had been
born to Christ and Mary Magdalene.
seemingly like so many others. Father Zeno tending
wheel and Theresa her sainthood, and above them on
the rooftops, Joe, a silent witness with his sleeping
minding the dreams of new stars over Jerusalem.
God turns out to be a gunrunner crossing
the desert in a balloon in 1914?
but I was young then and didn't know much, nothing
in fact, plain zero. Since then I've learned a little.
You do playing poker in Jerusalem for twelve years.
isn't it true we can get lucky now and then and
time doesn't pass at all? Or rather it passes all
it just doesn't take all the good things with it.
the treasure, peace to seek,
Melchizedeks's gentle dream on the mountain.
they dream there is a Jerusalem. And because
they do, it will be here when we wake up tomorrow,
dreamed into existence for another year.
had come. Jerusalem lay on the table. At last
it was a case of winner take all in the eternal city.
the view that's the article. If you're down on the
coast, bugger it up to the mountains. If you're in
bugger it down to the coast. Do you follow me?
Junker baron and baroness and for Martyr as well,
the nineteenth century had abruptly come to an end
in that early summer dawn in 1914, although elsewhere
in the world
a few more weeks were to pass before the radical new
state of affairs was generally recognized.
we can do on these beautiful Aegean shores is honor
our pagan gods, and there's never been any question,
they're on the side of love. Heavens, how they did
Swans and bulls were no obstacle whatsoever.
In comparison our very best efforts are meager indeed.
addition, so contradictory were the disguises of his
background, it could not even be determined whether
he was a Moslem or a Christian or a Jew.
only when we try to come up with answers that we lose
our way and wander, like the stars overhead. For the
stars do that don't they? Forgetting what we've been
told, I mean, isn't that surely the way the heavens
look? Astray and incomprehensible?
Or should I remind myself that almost everyone who has
been important in history was nobody to begin with,
that maybe the most important ones of all stay that
Invisible don't you know. Like a voice speaking
Life is an awesome blessing and the more we know of
the richer we are. The more we know its dust, no less
than the golden toll of its bell.
Your journey now involves time, my child, not space.
Not rivers and mountains and deserts to be crossed,
but memories to be explored.
Please forgive me that outburst of realism, he muttered.
I try to keep them down to a minimum, given the way
Suddenly the world you knew is no longer there and you
find yourself off in some little corner where nothing
is quite right,
not quite what it used to be, and a sad loneliness steals
over your heart
Sad, because you always thought
your little world would go on forever.
In the end all grand schemes of order are private,
and all the systems which we pretend are universal
have but the dimensions of my closet.
this network of Stern's spanned more than a century,
members not all among the living, yet their presences
so powerful they echoed endlessly through other lives
in a shadowy web of doing and feeling, that most
profound of all secret human codes.
When the day had come to look back and ponder the weavings
of Stern's wanderings, the network that would finally
reveal what Stern had sought, the unique figure
traced by every man on the infinite landscape of time.
Those little moments of infinite beauty and infinite
falsely ordered in retrospect to give life continuity,
a recitation of finite moments that in fact never existed.
heaven save us from people who dream, especially
failed artists, the worst of the lot. All tyrants seem
to be failed artists of
one kind or another
But then, so are most of us
in our souls.
Open tomb every Sunday, a charming social event
with all the amenities observed.
What a droll thing life is. This mysterious and merciless
arrangement of logic for a futile purpose.
hope. We can squander all the gift of life and
even more than that can be taken from us. But not hope.
We must have hope or the heavens will spin silently
and it will be as if we have never lived
canticle in the wilderness for the lost
his only companions the unknowable
Sphinx and the fleeing stars.
in his rags in the dust at twilight,
a beggar surveying his limitless kingdom.
Rags to riches
to rags it goes, and whoever said we all begin the same
and end the same knew what he was talking about.
In fact you
might even say codes are a metaphor for what we are
beneath the surface of things. And some of them seem
so universal we think they can be written in stone,
while others are so obscure no one but ourselves may
ever know they exist.
We all do
what we can in life. We try to no purpose and
we do what we can and what we can't do, we don't
we all have to delve into the Egyptologist's craft now
and then, and there even seen to be some hieroglyphs
A code, so to speak. Things I can't decipher because
there's no Rosetta Stone for this one.
But all lives
are secret tapestries that swirl and sweep through the
years with souls and strivings as the colours, the threads.
hide you, just the opposite. Gives away your
hiding place, if anything. But what other hope is there?
more the haunted prophet of old, a frail man stricken
with the terrible knowledge of the names of things
tending your soul, haven't you?
You used to talk about doing that and that's what you've
You went away and did it.
evil just aren't as simple as we'd like them to be.
We try hard to pretend otherwise, but it's never really
the time comes let a whirlwind descend on the
desert at night and let the blessed stillness of dawn
be on the sands where he's walked.
It has to
do with the tiny glimpses we're given of people,
and the fact that everyone seems to be a secret agent
in a way with their own private betrayals and their
own private loyalties that we don't know anything about,
and their own
secret code copied down from a private onetime pad,
whichwe both know is all but unbreakable.
People have a way of slipping into our hearts and staying
and we treasure them and don't want to let them go,
and more than that, we never can let them go.
standing around like pilgrims outside an oasis, leaning
on their staves and restlessly waiting to be spoken
Talk, the poor man's gold. The thirsty man's
barbarians do seem to serve a purpose in history, for
when we have them as enemies at our gates we no longer
have to judge ourselves. For a brief moment, anyway,
our innate savagery is safely out there beyond the city
walls and we can rejoice in our self-righteousness,
and be smug in our petty civic virtues.
Why is it
that the Mongols of this world always tell us
they're defending us against the Mongols?
Life is always
a gift of faces and a gift of tongues, and
I don't mean just those of others. I mean our own
All the faces we're given in the course of a
and all the many tongues we learn to speak.
justify wars by claiming they're fighting the barbarians.
What they don't bother to add is that the reason wars
are continuous in history is because the barbarians
are inside us.
struggle called history, the human soul, God.
all human beings dream. Even thieves and connivers have
that hidden place in their hearts.
Having lived for three hundred years in our Jericho
time, I know man's political endeavours are devious
and futile and completely without merit when compared
to even one flowering fruit tree, which is truly a boundless
What is true is that a holyman sometimes has special
obligations, to others even more than himself.
To her it was a vibrant silent dream of a city, its
a maze of man's strivings through the ages where even
smallest corner guarded a hoard of secret history, a
treasure of secret tales only fitfully at rest in the
dust of millennia.
Finding our true way is perhaps no more than being what
have always been
but with eyes that see.
People learn to hide and survive or hate and survive
or survive, but the one thing they do is survive and
not with acceptance in their hearts for those who humiliate
Perhaps in the excitement of going to war against the
he thought, the Arabs were once more indulging that
profound Levantine trait of preferring the mirage in
the distance to the dreary stretch of desert at hand,
the rich prospects of fantasy rather than the gritty
facts of everyday life.
In my three hundred years I have seen several proud
conquerors come to Jericho in search of oranges in the
lowest and oldest town on earth, but I suppose that's
the nature of living in desirable place.
Thus the mountains and the valley, the deserts and the
and wisdom and murder and empire, these various profane
and sacred causes of man all find their crossroads in
Jericho, which is why we grow oranges here.
To refresh those who are forever passing through.
And yet nothing that happens today changes our yesterdays,
mused Moses. The Mount of Temptation still rises above
to the west, the river where John the Baptist renewed
still flows beside us to the east. We are well situated
today as ever for shesh-besh and holy matters.
Like all conquerors, he wears the too-old face of a
who has had to endure the unspeakable.
Land, in other words. And also a fair enough assessment
of the lowest and oldest town on earth, it seemed to
him. Workable and adequate for the time being, at least
until God did show His Hand.
A pair of
open hands facing Assaf, facing Yousef.
A palmist's indelible map of the lines of the heart,
of the lines
of the mind and destiny for the soothsayer in each
of them to read by the firelight, one day to ponder.
We add new
vows to the old and forsake nothing and the soul becomes
like the Holy City, the myth which is Jerusalem, a dream
of ourselves which forever unachievable, to be seen
only by others, its wonders recounted to us in imaginary
tales of distant places.
he wondered, could a man really go in creating himself?
How far, in other words, could the Runner run?
on the mirage of the present which was forever
being born of the mythology of the past.
shifts from moment to moment, just as
the unchanging desert never stops changing.
But all the
same those rare and beautiful moments from the past
live on within us, no farther away than the smell of
an olive wood fire or the sound of rain beating softly
on a garden, time's unquiet ghosts, haunting our memories
with secret whispers of
as little as we do, we always seem to be connected
to others in ways we never suspect, in a sweep of time
we can't fathom, in moments we're only able to recognize
years later. As if for each of us the important things
in life become but one single story in the end, one
beautiful secret dream we grasp too late.
For the big
and powerful, it was always easy enough to find new
Killing grounds where others would do the dying for
Why be caught
publishing yesterday's truths about today's national
heroes and saviours, when we all know they're going
to turn out to be tomorrow's unscrupulous villains and
of survival were always so small, it seemed to
the Runner. Yet how vast was the sad finality of
these changes he was witnessing.
is that our greatest human treasure - memory - so often
glitters locked away out of reach, the one gift we can
never quite give away to another, even to those we love
it strange how all of this had ineluctably come to
pass for the Runner? Even with the most careful planning
and all the will in the world, there never seemed
a way to know which little moment from the past would
mysteriously blossom into a man's inevitable entire
prayer, peace of mind, sleep -
they all partake of the same gentle breeze.
sessions over the shesh besh board, Bell noticed,
had a peculiar way of exploring the universe
without appearing to do so.
too hard for what cannot be, he said.
It's good and right for a holy man to
believe more than the rest of us.
In a world
of secrecy and fury and chaos, it was astonishing how
short distances were and how quickly things changed.
Indeed, how near an unexpected friend could be.
men understand dust and oranges far better than the
of us. Because they know man is dust and oranges. Because
they know all of the rest is simply the clatter and
dice of a shesh besh game, a run of chance and skill
which we all play and refer to as life
and dice, dice and clatter.
in the mosaic seemed to crowd together and yet remain
separate - a commanding Tree of Life sheltering cruelty